The 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzodioxin (TCDD), a contaminant in Agent Orange released during the US–Vietnam War, led to a severe environmental crisis. Approximately, 50 years have passed since the end of this war, and vegetation has gradually recovered from the pollution. Soil bacterial communities were investigated by 16S metagenomics in habitats with different vegetation physiognomies in Central Vietnam, namely, forests (S0), barren land (S1), grassland (S2), and developing woods (S3). Vegetation complexity was negatively associated with TCDD concentrations, revealing the reasoning behind the utilization of vegetation physiognomy as an indicator for ecological succession along the gradient of pollutants. Stark changes in bacterial composition were detected between S0 and S1, with an increase in Firmicutes and a decrease in Acidobacteria and Bacteroidetes. Notably, dioxin digesters Arthrobacter, Rhodococcus, Comamonadaceae, and Bacialles were detected in highly contaminated soil (S1). Along the TCDD gradients, following the dioxin decay from S1 to S2, the abundance of Firmicutes and Actinobacteria decreased, while that of Acidobacteria increased; slight changes occurred at the phylum level from S2 to S3. Although metagenomics analyses disclosed a trend toward bacterial communities before contamination with vegetation recovery, non-metric multidimensional scaling analysis unveiled a new trajectory deviating from the native state. Recovery of the bacterial community may have been hindered, as indicated by lower bacterial diversity in S3 compared to S0 due to a significant loss of bacterial taxa and recruitment of fewer colonizers. The results indicate that dioxins significantly altered the soil microbiomes into a state of disorder with a deviating trajectory in restoration.
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